After over 900,000 votes, we’re narrowed down the Mortal Kombat series to the top 20 kharacters (extremely subtle reference). Did your favorite differently-colored-vest ninja make it? How about your lady-wearing-virtually-no-clothes of choice? Your personal top stupidly-difficult-and-frustrating boss battle? You won’t have to wonder long, because the results are below. And don’t forget to test your might by complaining how wrong everyone was not to vote for your favorites in the comments.
Why should dudes have all the fun? While Mortal Kombat is often derided (mayyybe rightfully) for having a bunch of dude ninjas that are virtually identical-looking (give or take a few color switches), people often forget that Mortal Kombat II introduced the feminine equivalent with Mileena, Kitana, and Jade. One of the most memorable amongst these three ridiculously skimpily-dressed ladies was Mileena, perhaps best remembered for a) being ridiculously skimpily-dressed (although she started out pretty modest compare to her current design) and b) hiding a messed-up demonic mouth under her bandana (much like Bret Michaels). But on top of that, Mileena was just a ridiculously solid fighter from MKII on, since she’s really motivated to win the tournament and use her winnings to get some dental work done (or take over the Earthrealm, whatever).
When Mortal Kombat III came around, the developers had a problem - they’d swapped palettes of lady ninjas and dude ninjas, so what was left? Then it hit them: ROBOT NINJAS. Sure, the entire notion of these cyborg fighters was kinda in the face of the ancient kung-fu tone of the rest of the series, but whatever CUZ ROBOT NINJAS. What else more could kids want in the mid-90s other than excessive violence and robots punching mall cops? Which brings us to Sektor….he was the red one.
18. Sonya Blade
A former law enforcement agent, super effective fighter, and the only female option in the original Mortal Kombat, Sonya Blade is something of a major achievement in fighting games: she’s probably one of the least sexualized female characters in a major fighting franchise. Granted, she’s still extremely sexualized, but compared to Mileena she looks like a nun. Also, she’s managed to be one of the more grounded and strong-willed characters in MK history, even though in the 1st movie they somehow manage to make her a damsel in distress even though she can burn people to a crisp with a kiss. Major missed opportunity there.
As the average rent in New York City climbs to above $3,000/mo (that’s three times the national average), we should really start questioning how it makes any sense for landlords to own apartments they don’t even live in
Gerard Johnson (possible attribution)
England (c. 1616-1621)
For those who are curious about which bust of Shakespeare that the author of this article was talking about, this is one of only two existing portraits that are universally agreed upon to be definitely of Shakespeare.To elicudate:
For one thing, Shakespeare himself was not white. The only full-colour portrait with any claim to authenticity, the funeral monument in Stratford-upon-Avon, reveals a very brown bard: his family obviously did not idealise whiteness.
This likeness was commissioned by Shakespeare’s son in law and widow more or less immediately after his death.
As the article explains, Shakespeare didn’t have a “race” as we think of it today. He wasn’t White. Nether was he Black or Asian, Native American, or any of the other racial categories we have today.
I’m hoping this lends a little more perspective on my entire blog, and how it navigates racial distinctions of the past, the present, and maybe even the future.
As I’ve said before, researching into his genealogy for “foreign” influences or ancestors is pointless, because People of Color have been living in Europe since Classical times. How many thousands of years back do we have to go before brown-skinned people can be counted as “Indigenous” British? The Romans? The first migrations of humankind to the European continent from Africa?
All I mean to do is add some nuance and create a hair’s breadth of distance between American concepts of “European” and “Whiteness”.
This is the other portrait, an engraving from his collected works, by Martin Droeshout:
A very well-researched article on the invention of whiteness in England, by Shakespearean scholar, professor and author Gary Taylor. I question a few of the assertions about gender, but the documentation is solid and very illuminating.
Like any other words, “white” in the modern, racial sense, was invented. And it is possible to pinpoint the first popular appearance of the idea that the English are “white people” in a piece of London street theatre, in 1613.
Drama was the only mass media in the England of that time. The largest print run for a book allowed by law was less than the number of spectators for a single performance at the Globe. Urban pageants and commercial plays reached a much larger and more varied population than books. So it was here, in drama, that new words and new meanings were popularised - as we know from Shakespeare.
But it wasn’t Shakespeare who decided that the English were “white”, despite his racist caricatures of oversexed black males (Aaron, Morocco, Othello, and - almost certainly - Caliban). For one thing, Shakespeare himself was not white. The only full-colour portrait with any claim to authenticity, the funeral monument in Stratford-upon-Avon, reveals a very brown bard: his family obviously did not idealise whiteness. More important, Shakespeare did not contrast the black men in his plays with “white men”. Instead, he routinely contrasted black men with white women.
The idea of a white woman seems blatantly racial to us, 400 years later. But when Shakespeare and his predecessors praised a lady for her white hand, white neck or white breasts, that colour coding was gender (and class) specific. In all ethnic groups, women are paler than men: statistically, globally, women have less melatonin in their skin, less haemoglobin in their blood, and less body hair. Like other bodily features that tend to differentiate the sexes, the relative pallor of women was, in Elizabethan England, fetishised, exaggerated and faked. Elizabeth I - like many other well-to-do women in classical, medieval and Renaissance Europe - painted her face white.
But while whiteness was gendered, it was not racialised. Elizabethan male idols did not wear white makeup or wigs, did not avoid sunburning and did not want to be called white. Applied to men, “white” described a corpse or a coward. Or a eunuch: the hormonal changes caused by castration made the skin of a eunuch as soft and white as an aristocrat’s pampered indoor trophy wife. To call a man “white” was to impugn his masculinity.
So when Iago tells Brabantio that Othello has run off with Desdemona, and that “an old black ram is tupping your white ewe”, Shakespeare and his character are being simultaneously racist (“black ram”) and misogynist (“white ewe”). We tend to see only the racism, because we assume that Iago considers himself as “white” as Desdemona. But he doesn’t. Neither Iago, nor any other man in the play, describes himself as white.
There are no white men in Othello . There were no white men in Shakespeare’s acting company. There were no black men in that company either, and no women. When the King’s Men performed Othello, one of the male actors blacked up to play the Moor of Venice, and one of the male actors whited up to play the “whore of Venice”. None of the actors thought of black, or white, as their own natural, biological, “racial” colour. White was a colour that actors put on when they wanted to assume a different - and inferior - identity.
You can see the same bias against whiteness in Titus Andronicus. The black “barbarous Moor” Aaron derides Chiron and Demetrius for their cowardice, and specifically associates their timidity with their skin tone: “Ye white-limed walls, ye alehouse painted signs.” The words “white-limed” and “painted” both indicate that the characters’/ actors’ pale complexions are not natural, but the result of makeup (“painting”). Obviously, the stupid rapists Chiron and Demetrius do not represent an idealised “white race”. The play calls them “barbarous Goths”, and Goths were associated with uncivilised regions in the far north. The tragedy shows the classic Roman civilisation idealised by the Renaissance crumbling under the attack of two demographic extremes: southern black barbarians like Aaron (associated with Islam), and northern white barbarians like Chiron and Demetrius (associated with the Goths).
If Shakespeare, his fellow male actors and the men in his audiences did not regard themselves as white, how did they imagine themselves? The paired and rejected extremes of black and white in Shakespeare’s plays put the male writer/actor/spectator in a position celebrated by the male authorities of classical and Renaissance culture: in the middle. The “via media” was the declared justification for the English church, rejecting the Charybdis of Catholicism and the Scylla of Puritanism. Proverbially, “the merry mean” (or simply “the mean”) is best, “the middle way of measure is ever golden”, and man should “observe the golden mean”.
Note the colour attributed to that ideal state. It is not white. It is golden. “Golden” may be used figuratively, but so could “white”, and the choice is hardly random. The phrase “golden mean” is ubiquitous in English literature from the middle of the 16th to the middle of the 17th century. Classical, medieval and Renaissance art often used gold to represent idealised human or divine figures. In the golden age, men lived in a golden world, under a golden sun. The “golden mean” was the preferred stance of authority, centrally positioned to evaluate the extremes represented by effeminacy and savagery, white and black.
To find racial whiteness in English theatre we have to fast forward to the generation after Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s last work for the stage, The Two Noble Kinsmen (co-written with John Fletcher), probably opened the London season at the Blackfriars theatre in September 1613. A few weeks later, on October 29, London spent a record-breaking amount of money on a pageant to inaugurate its new mayor: one of the founding members of the East India Company. That same autumn, four East India Company ships returned to London, carrying more than 1m lbs (450 tonnes) of (fantastically profitable) pepper.
The celebratory pageant, called The Triumphs of Truth , was written by the playwright Thomas Middleton, 16 years younger that Shakespeare. In the middle of The Triumphs of Truth , “a strange ship” appears, carrying “a king of the Moors, his queen, and two attendants of their own colour”. The black king addresses the London crowd: “I see amazement set upon the faces/ Of these white people, wond’rings and strange gazes./ Is it at me? Does my complexion draw/ So many Christian eyes that never saw/ A king so black before?”
A socially and morally undifferentiated crowd of English men and women is here characterised as “white people”, their individual and collective white identity asserted by a black stranger. From the perspective of his alien blackness, they are all “white”.
This first occurrence in a popular text of a positive sense of collective English whiteness contradicts a lot of our assumptions about the history of racism. Shakespeare was a racist, but he didn’t think he was white. Middleton thought he was white, but he wasn’t a racist. Middleton’s Black King is the first unequivocally positive representation of a black speaker in the entire surviving corpus of English dramatic texts. He is not lustful, not jealous, not a liar, not a murderer; he does not belong to the police line-up of violent black men arraigned in the preceding decades by dramatists such as George Peele, Thomas Dekker and Shakespeare. He is not called ugly or foul. Middleton’s Black King is - as the African American scholar Eldred Jones noted decades ago - less “shallow” than the black figures in other pageants. Moreover, Middleton’s Black King stands beside his Black Queen, who also speaks. This is the first positive portrayal of a black marriage in English literature. Indeed, it is the first portrayal of black monogamy. (And still one of the few.)
The notion that Anglo-saxons were “white” did not originate on slave plantations in the American colonies. The modern racial sense of the word entered the London popular vocabulary in 1613. There were few English colonists at all in 1613, and no slave plantations. English whiteness was not originally defined in contrast to the blackness of African slaves, but in contrast to the blackness of civilised monarchs in India, south-east Asia, and the spice islands. The Great White Bard was not white at all. And racial whiteness is not a biological fact, but a historical invention.
· Gary Taylor is the author of Buying Whiteness: Race, Culture, and Identity from Columbus to Hip-Hop , published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Repeat after me: "Happiness is not a luxury. Happiness is a priority. Wanting happiness is not asking for too much. Looking for happiness is not selfish."